220611 – You Are Here

Yr C ~ Pentecost 1 ~ Psalm 8

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a big, complex place like a large city, or a huge theme park, or a sprawling conservation area, and you want to figure out where you are and how to get to where you want to go? Often in such places you can find a big map posted on a wall with a representation of the whole place on it, and there will be a star or an arrow or something indicating where on the map you are. Usually the words you’ll find are: You Are Here.

Those maps are incredibly helpful, and reassuring. It gives you an instant sense of groundedness – like you’re not lost and adrift in a giant and strange place. You are here. In this spot. And then you can see how that spot relates to all the other spots and can guide you on your way.

Now imagine another kind of map. Imagine a map of our entire planet earth. You have to zoom out pretty far to get the whole planet represented. As you’re imagining that picture map of the whole earth, now put a dot where you are, and draw in an arrow, and say the words, You Are Here. Probably not so grounding, is it? It’s because the frame of reference is so big that it’s hard to really comprehend where you are on that map, or how you relate to anything.

Now zoom out farther, so you can see our whole solar system on the map – and draw in your little You Are Here arrow. Now zoom out even farther, so you can see the swirl of our galaxy – the ‘Milky Way’ it’s called. How tiny is your little dot and arrow now? Can you even comprehend where ‘here’ is when you consider such vastness?

Now we’re painting on a theological canvass! How vast is this universe? How utterly incomprehensible? How mind-bogglingly complex? How did it come to be in existence? Is there a purpose, or an intelligence behind it all somehow? Our best scientific minds can only barely muster guesses and colourful descriptions about it all. And if you talk to scientists about these things they start to sound a lot like theologians! They speak about wonder, and mystery, and awesomeness. Our limited brains can only go so far, and then we’re left with questions and ponderings. It’s at that point that we turn to our poets, our musicians, our artists, and our psalmists.

1 O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.

2 Out of the mouths of (toddlers) and (nursing) infants you have founded a bulwark (a refuge, a strength) because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger. (In other words, even the songs of gurgling babies proclaim your strength and wonder.)

3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established;

4 what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?

As people of faith our theological claim is the Holy Mystery that we have given the name ‘God’ to is somehow at the heart and centre of the universe – that God’s essence, God’s love, is what reverberates in and through everything. We use poetic and metaphoric language like “the work of your fingers” and the name of ‘Creator’ because it invites our imaginations to connect the impossible vastness of the universe with that sense of harmonious interconnectedness that we catch glimpses of from time to time – and it assures us that that undefinable, ineffable sense that there really is Something More really is Really Real – and that Something More-ness seeks harmony, resonance, connection.  

When you lay there on the grass and stare up at the heavens, at the indescribable beauty and the incomprehensible limitlessness of it all, the word that should probably come to mind is awe. And while we don’t limit our understanding of ‘God’ to being an anthropomorphic ‘person’ we do wrap that God-ness in certain poetic descriptions that are distinctly ‘personal’. And we find ourselves blurting out stuff just like the psalmist did…

3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established;

4 what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?

It’s an existential yearning for meaning that we all share. Who are we that God, or anyone, or anything, should be mindful of us? When I’m just a seemingly insignificant microscopic dot with a tiny arrow compared to the Milky Way why should I even matter? The psalmist offers an image!

Psalm 8:5 Yet you have made (us) a little lower than God, and crowned (us) with glory and honour.

Think about that for a moment. The claim here is that the power that called the universe into being also created us – and that we have been made “just a little lower than God”! I think it’s even more powerful if we flip the metaphor. God has made us almost as great and powerful as Godself. That’s light years different than the kinds of theologies that call humans ‘vile worms’ or says we’re nothing but ‘totally depraved’. Nope – apparently we’re almost God-like – we are divinity-adjacent! Our glass isn’t half-empty – it’s half-full – and more like practically fully full! That’s “how great we art!” Or maybe it’s better to say that’s how ‘potentially’ great we art?

If we’re really potentially that awesome – if we’re God-ish – now what? How then shall we live? What are our responsibilities as beings that are almost like gods?

With great power comes great responsibility! Here’s what the psalmist said about that:

Psalm 8:6-9 You (God) have given them (humans) dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Dominion, from the Latin word domus which does NOT mean to dominate, but rather means home or household. It’s not about having dominion ‘over’ something, it’s about having dominion ‘with’. It’s also related to a monarch’s reign, but probably not in the way you think. The psalmist was thinking about the ideal ‘king’ in their time. “The role of the king in ancient Israel was to provide a place where people could live in peace and safety, raise their animals and their crops, be treated with justice and equity, and be cared for if they were unable to care for themselves. The role of one having dominion? Kindness, provision for good, peace and well-being, plenty for all.”

Friends, with great power comes great responsibility!

If we really aspire to be God-like in any way, then we must aspire to using whatever power we have for kindness, provision for good, peace, well-being, and plenty for all. Just like we imagine God cares for us – insignificant, tiny little specs in the vastness of the universe – God loves us – and is mindful of us. So if we are to be like God – to bear God’s image in any way – then we must love, and care for, and be mindful of everyone and everything – no matter how seemingly insignificant in the grand scope of things.

You are here. And that matters. And it’s also the gateway to a wonderful realization of how this amazing universe works. Let’s play with it a bit.

When I say “You are here” who’s the you?

If God is the ‘You’ – then saying You Are Here is a profound affirmation of God’s Presence. It says that God is not somewhere else, but here.

If you are the ‘You’ – then saying You Are Here (I am here) is a personal affirmation that I am real, and present. I’m not living in the past, or future – I’m here, in the moment, and this moment is sacred.

If y’all are the ‘You’ – as in ‘you’ plural, then saying You Are Here is an affirmation of how we are one-together, how we share this sacred moment, and how we are all part of one another’s journey.

You are here. We are here. All are here. God is here.

That’s a lot of interconnectedness. In fact, it’s the interconnectedness of all things and people – the interdependence of all things and people – the interrelatedness of all things and people.

That leads us very naturally into thinking about the word Trinity. Today is Trinity Sunday in the liturgical calendar. The Trinity is classically named as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Of course, you can express that in many ways – because what we’re expressing is not a specific and limited thing, but a complex set of relationships and interrelatedness, interconnectedness, and interdependence. Three-ness and One-ness at the same time. All and individual at the same time. Unique and blended at the same time. Aspects and whole at the same time. Selfness. Otherness. All-ness.

Science tells us that every particle in the universe comes from stars that have exploded. Yes, I’m saying that we are literally star dust. We are all made of the same stuff. We are all part of one another – and we’re all part of God – interrelated, interconnected, interdependent. Because of this, because we’re with God and in God and almost like God, we have dominion in our lives. Not power over – power with – care for – love of – mindfulness in – supporting and strengthening everyone and everything for the good of all. I fear that society has lost sight of this. Our calling is to remind them – lovingly.

A modern-day psalmist said it like this:

We are star dust. We are golden. And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden…

You are here. You are created just a little below God. You are very powerful. You have dominion. When we understand and embody these things, together, we flourish. When we don’t, we suffer – for if one part of the body suffers then all suffer with it.

You are here – interrelated, interconnected, interdependent.

How then shall you live?